Schiedam, an unfamiliar place to me, on a wintry Saturday afternoon. Schiedam, a place that is closely connected however to my family history, as my great-grandfather was the chief of police here, my grandparents grew up here, and my mother visited her family here as a child. Schiedam, it’s almost half past four, and passing by here I got off the train. Can I still make it to a museum at this hour?
Alongside a canal in the old city center, you’ll find the Jenever Museum. I’m lucky, it turns out to be open till 6 PM. The historic building and the nice lady at the entrance provide a warm welcome. Jenever is still distilled, sold and served here. But the love of jenever wasn’t passed on to me by my grandmother, so no stop at the tasting room for me. Looking at the exhibition, I learn that until the 40s, most people drank their jenever at the pub, or had a little barrel filled for use at home. Bottled beverage was initially a luxury product, especially produced for export. After WWII the “common people” also wanted to know exactly what they were getting, switching to buying sealed bottles with a brand name. Those bottles can be found here in all shapes and sizes, one room is even completely filled with miniatures from all over the world.
On the top floor of the museum you can dive currently in the pub history. Pub, squatting café, lounge bar, all decorated in style, not even lacking the urinals with graffiti. There’s also a sound-absorbing phone booth as I know from my student dorm. But in the women’s café, teleported from the 70s, I realize how much has changed in forty years. There is a document, a release from the mayor. Apparently, in those days it was forbidden for women to work in a place where alcohol was served by Dutch law. At least, during opening hours. Because yes, who else would be cleaning up after closing time? But as men were not welcome in the women’s café, the barmaids needed a special exemption. Even in the Netherlands, emancipation is far from complete, but luckily these kind of curiosities are a thing of the past.
The website is Dutch only, but in the museum all explications are both in Dutch and English. Still in for some more jenever history? Visit the nearby windmill, De Nieuwe Palmboom. Personally, I will have to come back for that another time, as for visiting some other Schiedam museums.